This season, Camp Laurelwood has been able to welcome a Torah scroll to their camp. The scroll, along with seven other Torah scrolls, one haftorah, one megillah, and many other artifacts, belonged to the old Jewish Home for the Aged in New Haven and had been in storage since the Jewish Home closed in 2010.
“We created a ritual where our cornerstone fellows (third-year counselors who were all campers at Laurelwood) help us unroll the scroll. We asked our campers to get into two lines and then sit down, and we unrolled the scroll on top of them, so their legs were supporting the scroll. We stretched across an entire basketball court at our Chuppah. We asked the campers and counselors to look for things in the scroll that were noticeable - crowns on the letters, breaks in the writing, letters of different sizes. It gave us a chance to talk about the journey of our ancestors was full of differences, and how those differences make the scroll special, just as our differences make our Camp community whole and special. We also talked about how the journey of our ancestors supports the community we are today, just as we are supporting the scroll with our bodies. We made a sheheheyanu, read from it, and sang some Torah songs led by one of our new counselors, Jessica. It was such a special moment, and would not have been possible without the help and support of the Jewish Foundation of Greater New Haven,” states Rabbi James Green, Camp Laurelwood Executive Director.
In December of 2019, The Jewish Foundation of Greater New Haven received ownership of all of the assets of the Jewish Home Building Fund Corporation which included 8 torahs, archival materials, as well as monies that were used to establish two new, Foundation-owned endowment funds to benefit the Jewish elderly. The Jewish Foundation established a grants process and this year awarded $150,000 in grants for the Jewish elderly (last year $130,000 was awarded). Yahrtzeit plaques from the Jewish Home are now at the Towers and the torahs were evaluated by a scribe and the Jewish Foundation is working with the New Haven Board of Rabbis and Cantors to find a good home for them. In addition, archival materials were moved to the Jewish Historical Society and the Jewish Foundation has awarded a grant to the Jewish Historical Society which will allow them to create a modern, digital archive for all of the Jewish Home material.